What to Watch: Carlsberg profits jump, Ladbrokes ups forecasts, and FirstGroup names new CEO

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A bartender holds a glass of Carlsberg beer in a bar in St Petersburg. Photo: Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters/Carlsberg Russia

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

Carlsberg profits jump

Profits at Danish brewery Carlsberg (CARL-B.CO) rose by 17.7% in the first half of the year, the company said on Thursday.

Carlsberg was boosted by a strong sales of its craft brands, with craft and speciality drink volumes up 17%. Revenue rose by 6.5% to DKK 32.9bn (£4bn).

“We delivered a strong set of results for the first six months of 2019, with healthy top-line development, strong margin improvement, and continued solid cash flow,” CEO Cees ’t Hart said.

“We’re pleased that last week we were able to adjust our earnings outlook upwards due to the performance in the first half and a solid start to Q3, and despite tough comparables.”

Carlsberg shares were up 5% in Copenhagen.

Ladbrokes ups forecasts

Ladbrokes owner GVC (GVC.L) has upped its profit forecast after a surprisingly strong performance at its UK high street stores.

The gambling giant said its retail business “outperformed” expectations, despite the clampdown on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). “Strong trading” in its online arm also helped.

The FTSE 250 company, which also runs betting firm Coral, saw underlying pre-tax profits rise 30% to £212.1m over the first half of 2019.

CEO Kenneth Alexander said the first half performance was “extremely pleasing.”

Ladbrokes raised its full year profit guidance to between £650m and £750m, up from £650m. The company also upped its dividend.

FirstGroup names new CEO

Transport giant FirstGroup (FGP.L) has appointed former Arriva chief executive David Martin as chairman.

He starts with immediate effect and replaces Wolfhart Hauser, who resigned in June after activist investor Coast Capital called for him, and five other executives, to be voted off the board.

“Undoubtedly there are challenges which we must overcome, but I am confident in the opportunity that exists to unlock the considerable value within the group,” Martin said.

BrewDog mulls beer bond

The boss of craft brewery BrewDog is considering issuing a bond that would pay lenders partly in beer.

BrewDog founder James Watt this week posted on the brewery’s investor forum, floating the idea of an unusual debt instrument that would feature both financial returns and free beer.

“We are considering another £10m bond offering and this time we would pay the coupon 50% in beer and 50% in cash,” Watt wrote. “Meaning investors get an annual financial return and also an annual payment in beer!”

Watt said the funds would be used for distribution infrastructure and expansion in Germany, Australia, and the US. He asked investors for feedback on the idea on the forum.

Global markets rocked by recession fears

European markets were struggling for direction on Thursday after recession fears rocked US markets overnight and sent shockwaves through global markets.

All major US indexes closed down around 3% on Wednesday after the US Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since the financial crisis.

“It’s been another turbulent session for markets in Asia overnight with US markets plunging overnight, on concerns over the possibility of a looming recession, though crucially we haven’t broken below the lows seen earlier this month,” Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in an email.

“The Nikkei 225 has also fallen sharply, however the Hang Seng has rebounded from its lows after US President Trump suggested a meeting with China’s Xi Jinping to discuss the crisis there.”

Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed down by 1.2%, but the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was up by 0.9% and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was up by 0.2%.

“As a consequence European markets opened modestly higher, with the exception of the FTSE100 which is lagging behind, due to weak performances from oil and gas and basic resource stocks after yesterday’s sharp decline in the oil price, over future demand concerns,” Hewson said.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down by 0.1%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was flat, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up by 0.1%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was flat.

What to expect in the US

US stocks future are pointing to small recovery later today. S&P500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.5%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were up by 0.5%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up by 0.4%.

Companies reporting today later in the US include: